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UK deaths outnumber births for first time in 40 years

·2-min read
Just over 683,000 births were registered compared with nearly 690,000 deaths
Just over 683,000 births were registered compared with nearly 690,000 deaths

More deaths than births have been registered in the UK for the first time since 1976.

The coronavirus epidemic led to a sharp rise in deaths last year but lockdown restrictions in March 2020 did not lead to a baby boom, new figures suggest.

In total, just over 683,000 births were registered compared with nearly 690,000 deaths, reports BBC News.

It is the biggest single jump in a year seen since World War Two, with death rates back to levels last seen in 2008.

Fertility rates in England and Wales for December 2020 and January 2021 instead showed “relatively steep decreases” compared with the equivalent month one year earlier.

This is down by 8.1 per cent and 10.2 per cent respectively, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The coronavirus pandemic led to a rise in deaths last year but birth rates have been falling for the past decade.

While the number of deaths in the UK have been rising in recent years, part of that increase is due to the UK population increasing and getting older.

The figures also show that the total number of live births in England and Wales in 2020 fell for the fifth successive year in a row.

There were 615,557 births, down 4 per cent on 2019, and a drop of 16 per cent from the recent peak of 730,883 births in 2012.

There were 2,429 stillbirths in England and Wales last year, the equivalent of 3.9 per 1,000 births, the ONS said.

This is down slightly from 2,596 stillbirths and a rate of 4.0 in 2019.

The stillbirth rate for January 2021 was 4.7 – the highest for any calendar month since March 2018.

January 2021 coincided with the height of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic but the ONS said the rate was “within the plausible range that we might expect to see from random variation”.

It noted there are relatively low numbers of stillbirths each month, and there were 226 stillbirths in January 2021 compared with 207 in January 2020.

Meanwhile the total fertility rate in England and Wales for this year could end up being the lowest ever recorded, the ONS suggested.

Based on data for the first three months of the year, the rate for 2021 is estimated to be 1.53 children per woman. This is down from 1.92 children per woman in 2011.

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

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